Monday, February 23, 2015

Proud, Yet Satisfied

Marko Dano
It was the weirdest of times, it was the even weirder of times.  Or something like that.  Last night a road weary Blue Jackets team got jumped early, but fought their way back to forge a tie.  Even better, we lost the skills competition to remain in the number 6 slot in the 2015 NHL entry draft.  There is going to be a REALLY GOOD player available at number 6 in this draft.  Fading to the 5th pick would be ideal, but Shanahan is going to keep kicking the Toronto players hard enough to make that unlikely, and anything earlier, bar the miraculous lottery win, is out of our reach.  There is going to be another Wennberg-like player available in this slot.  And yes, I will address the raging Dano versus Wennberg debate on Twitter in a bit.

This has been a tough year.  I am amazed, and really proud of our team for the moxie they showed last night to fight back into this game.  That kind of tenaciousness is a key ingredient for starting to make runs into the playoffs.  And if you have designs on a Cup, with Jarmo and JD certainly do, you need to have a team that can deal with the baggage of going deep, but not getting to the top of the mountain, and so turn around and do it again.  And for that, you need deep talent to go with your moxie.  Our ability to draft high in a very deep draft  this year could serve this organization well for years to come.  With the right core of veterans to teach the young talent well, you are laying a foundation for the type of success the Redwings have shown over the years (kudos to them, in all seriousness, I thought that playoff streak was toast this year.  Not so).  This year is a momentary set back.  There is no reason to think that organizationally  last year was an aberration, or that we will necessarily in the future enter the playoffs with a our 'gas tank empty'.  You have to punch your ticket to the dance, and we will not this year, but once you are there, you need to have more.  The 2008-09 team left it all on the ice to punch the ticket.  The 2013-14 team demonstrated that it had not, but was still to young to grasp the moment.  In spite of the injuries, and some horrifying losing streaks, this team has shown a lot of progress in the regular season in 2014-15, particularly against better competition.

Last night the Rangers didn't have an answer for our 'third' line in the second and third periods.  Our team was at its best last year when we were rolling three 'second lines' and a highly effective fourth line.  That has not happened this year except in a few instances.  Last night, we ended up with a match-up that the Rangers could not deal with.  Alain Vingneault is a hell of a coach, and he will have an answer for that match-up the next time we play them.  The rest of the league is studying the video.  They'll be ready with an attempt to answer that.  The match-ups are key.  The answer to containing the Foligno-Anisimov-Dano line might mean that the Hartnell-Johansen-Wennberg line wins it's match-up.

Marko Dano is going to be a good NHL player.  The Twitterverse was opining that we should have had Dano up all year long instead of Wennberg.  I disagree.  Wennberg should have been in the AHL all year, but the early season decimation of centers meant he needed to be up here, as we needed bodies.  Recall that Dubinsky, Letestu and Anisimov were all on injured reserve early in the season.  The sent him down briefly, but had to call him right back up when Anisimov tore a triceps muscle.  At that point, its better to leave him up than to bounce him back and forth.  Dano's development was better served by being in the AHL.  He is in that initial 5 game performance bump after being called up, so looks good.  Let's review Dano's play on St. Patrick's day, and then we'll know if he's better than Wennberg.  Wennberg has been in the NHL when he probably shouldn't have been, has taken his lumps, learned from them, and responded with steady improvement.  Once he gets over his rookie reluctance to shoot the puck, he is going to be really good.  I think Dano is going to be a very good NHL player.  I think Wennberg has a higher ceiling.  I wonder if we are going to see Rychal after the trade deadline?

I liked what I saw from our team last night.  I liked even better that we held our draft position.  Because this difficult time is a harbinger for great things to come.  And it is not far off.


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